Marble Hornets

Bloggified by Jake on Saturday, October 3, 2009

UPDATE: Okay, I'm guessing someone posted a link to this year and a half old post on Unfiction because I'm getting some comments rubbing my nose in the fact that I WAS WRONG about Tim not hiding something. Let me point out that I did not say Tim wasn't hiding anything, only that the people who insisted he must be hiding something were guessing. The point of the following was not to say "There are no secrets to be discovered" or "Everyone on the Unfiction boards is an idiot." The point was to say "Not everything is a secret to be discovered" and "Some of the people on the Unfiction boards are idiots." If you read the examples I provide, it's hard to support the idea that calling people from the phone book who have the same names as characters from the show was the purpose the creators of the project had in mind.

That said, congratulations, Unfiction collective, on one of your theories being proven correct.
Two weeks ago, I was turned on to Marble Hornets, a series of very creepy and surprisingly well done YouTube clips telling the story of a guy logging video tapes that document an old friend's descent into madness. An introductory video explains that Alex, the friend, was a film student who was producing a movie called Marble Hornets. As production dragged along, Alex got more and more irritable and strange until he shut down the project altogether. When asked what he was going to do with the footage he shot, he told "J," the narrator of the story, he was going to burn them. J asked if he could have the tapes, and Alex handed them over in some large garbage bags.

Three years later, J was cleaning out his closet and found the garbage bags full of tapes in totally random order. He started going through them and found Alex had been recording himself almost constantly, filling one tape, then immediately popping in another. None of it seemed significant until he came across this:

At this point, I'd suggest you go to the Marble Hornets page on YouTube and watch the rest of the entries though watch out for a deafening sound burst on Entry 5. Keep your hand near the volume control. Come back here when you're through.

Finished? Lovely, let's move on then.

The videos are very effective even before you consider the next-to-nothing budget. The scary foreboding figure, the Slender Man, is more effective as a mannequin and a guy on stilts than he would be as a high-budget CGI figure. And more than anything, the simple black and white contrast makes him blend into shadows so effectively, you often overlook him.This also means that if you go for a walk around your neighborhood after dark, you will see him everywhere.

On top of the spooky Slender Man moments, there are a series of video replies from "totheark" which include audio excerpts from some of the earlier entries and coded (or seemingly coded) messages. Since we don't know who the character behind these posts is, it adds another level to the mystery. To make the whole experience even more immersive, both J and totheark can be contacted through YouTube and Twitter and will answer some questions about what's happening.

The guys behind this project deserve some serious kudos. Unfortunately, by its very nature, Marble Hornets is most attractive to those who are curious. Problem solvers and mystery readers will take to this instantly. The problem, though, is that there really isn't much to solve, not that that's stopping them.

Over at Unfiction, there is a message board dedicated to Marble Hornets where every little detail is discussed into the ground. As the project's popularity grows, so does the cacophony of nonsense surrounding it.

Where once the boards served to point out small details and bounce around ideas of what totheark's codes might mean, now it is overrun with amateur Sherlock Holmeses who've watched too many episodes of "Lost" and think that qualifies them as geniuses.

"The sound on the right channel of Alex's camera is 15 microseconds behind the left channel. This is also the case with J's camera," points out one contributor. "Someone should ask J if Alex also gave him his camera." And others jumped aboard this theory, as if they thought the fact all the scenes in the project were shot with one camera was somehow a significant plot point instead of just a matter of fact that a couple guys in Alabama shooting a YouTube series with no budget would probably just use one camera.

Another poster jumped on the fact that J had identified his friend as Alex Kralie, but that there are no "Alex Kralie"s to be found in the internet white pages and, in fact, "Kralie" doesn't show up in the most recent Census reports.

J, they concluded, might be lying about Alex's last name... as opposed to just accepting that "Alex Kralie" is a fictional character. What I find more interesting here is to speculate what the poster might have done if he had found an Alex Kralie. Would he have called to ask questions about the movie?

I ask because others have broken down some of the landmarks in the "Introduction" video and have suggested that someone drive the route and start searching for locations seen in the other videos. One contributor tracked down one of the guys behind the production and posted his AIM account on the forum, which prompted a Twitter update from J asking people not to contact him through AIM any more.

The most recent entry features J interviewing one of the actors from Alex's movie. It's a five-minute long single shot piece that reveals several things about the film's production and has a very clear point. "J must now find Brian, who lived near Alex, knew Alex better, and may have been plagued by the Slender Man himself." Instead, the message boards are full of analysis of pauses and stumbles with most people agreeing that an unpaid actor shooting a five-minute long conversation would never lose his place in the script or stutter a line unless it was crucial to the plot.Perhaps what's most important about all of this is that to this point, no one involved with the project has reached out for interaction. J stated, "I have to find Alex," but he didn't say, "I have to find Alex... but how? Any suggestions? I believe I have all the information I need, but just can't make the pieces fit together," which would imply that we're supposed to solve a puzzle to help the story move forward.

Instead, this is more like "Lost." You watch and enjoy the story, and there are clues and tiny details to pick up, but you don't try to track down Hugo Hurley or try to find the sets where they are shooting the new season so you can somehow affect the plot of the series.

Sadly, the creators of Marble Hornets are becoming victims of their own success. Putting together such a tight production, peppering many details into short clips, viewers have come to expect everything to be meaningful. Why are there marks on Tim's arm there? It can't be because the actor playing Tim rested his forearms on the edge of a desk while they discussed stage direction, it must be because he was attacked by the Slender Man at some point!

Unfortunately, even big budget Hollywood films have mistakes slip through the cracks, but where the disappearing robot arm in Jurassic Park or Sean Connery's self-buttoning-and-unbuttoning collar in Untouchables get written off as mistakes, any similar accidents--such as someone walking down the hallway and having a conversation because it was shot not on a closed set but rather in a public place--on Marble Hornets becomes canon and must carry some kind of secret meaning.

I only hope the guys behind the movie don't get discouraged by the dickishness of some of their followers and continue the good work toward a fulfilling end.

3 sarcastic replies:

CalvinPitt said...

Those are some really effective videos. I know they're staged, but they still freak me out. And my work involves me wandering around in the woods alone. Great. I'm going to be freaking out.

horsey2ref said...

Great post! I agree with your point of view on the mystery-solvers. I think it's really cool what these guys are doing, especially because they aren't making money off of it and they have kept it going for so long. And the Slender Man is EVERYWHERE at night! This type of thing stays with a viewer for a long, long time.

horsey2ref said...

Oh, and with "these guys" I was referring to the people behind Marble Hornets, not the forum kids.

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